The Impostors has all the ingredients of a successful farce: an improbable storyline based on mistaken identities, generous slices of slapstick and split-second timing on the part of its performers. And writer/director/star Stanley Tucci has assembled an outstanding cast for his on-screen voyage.
Among the talented troupe are Lili Taylor (glamorous head stewardess), Steve Buscemi (suicidal crooner), Tony Shalhoub (revolutionary first mate), Campbell Scott (lovelorn Nazi), Billy Connolly (gay tennis player with a fondness for Greek wrestling), Isabella Rossellini (deposed queen) and Woody Allen (neurotic director).
This follow-up to Tucci's memorable directorial debut Big Night is a homage to classic '30s Marx Brothers comedies, as well as the likes of Keaton and Chaplin. Right from the opening scene (Maurice and Arthur performing a well-rehearsed public quarrel in an attempt to pinch pastries), The Impostors delivers a plentiful supply of laughs and demonstrates the touching interdependence of its two male leads.
A blend of sight gags, farcical pratfalls and biting one-liners ("I'm clothing rich but cash poor" is given as a reason for not tipping) ensures that the comedy continues aboard the cruise ship, culminating in an expertly choreographed scene at the Captain's Ball, when Oliver Platt is resplendent in full drag.
And, fittingly for a film in which identity is revealed to be nothing more than masquerade and performance, the director highlights the artifice of the whole enterprise. Hence the chapter-style headings, the addresses to camera, the painted backdrops that stand in for the ocean and the final jubilant scene in which the cast dance from ship to shore. It's nothing less than delightful.
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This terrific period farce showcases the immense talents of some of America's finest character actors. Deftly written, consummately performed and elegantly designed, this charming comedy makes for consistently enjoyable viewing.